Józef Cyrankiewicz

Józef Cyrankiewicz
Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland
2nd Prime Minister of Communist Poland
In office
February 6, 1947  November 20, 1952
President Bolesław Bierut
Preceded by Edward Osóbka-Morawski
Succeeded by Bolesław Bierut
Prime Minister of the People's Republic of Poland
4th Premier of Communist Poland,
2nd Premier under People's Constitution
In office
March 18, 1954  December 23, 1970
Preceded by Bolesław Bierut
Succeeded by Piotr Jaroszewicz
4th Chairman of the Council of State of the People's Republic of Poland
In office
December 23, 1970  March 28, 1972
Preceded by Marian Spychalski
Succeeded by Henryk Jabłoński
Personal details
Born 23 April 1911
Tarnów, Austro-Hungary (now Poland)
Died 20 January 1989(1989-01-20) (aged 77)

Józef Cyrankiewicz [ˈjuzɛf t͡sɨranˈkʲɛvit͡ʂ] (April 23, 1911 – January 20, 1989) was a Polish Socialist and after 1948 Communist politician. He served as premier of the People's Republic of Poland between 1947 and 1952, and again for 16 years between 1954 and 1970. He also served as Chairman of the Polish Council of State from 1970 to 1972.[1][2]

Early life

Born in Tarnów in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Cyrankiewicz attended Kraków's Jagiellonian University. He became the secretary of the local branch of the Polish Socialist Party in 1935.

World War II

Active in the Union of Armed Struggle (Związek Walki Zbrojnej, later renamed to Armia Krajowa), the Polish resistance organization, from the beginning of Poland's 1939 defeat at the start of World War II, Cyrankiewicz was captured by the Gestapo in the spring of 1941 and after imprisonment at Montelupich was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. He arrived on September 4, 1942, and received registration number 62,933.

While there, Communist propaganda claims he attempted to organize a resistance movement among the other imprisoned socialists and also worked on bringing the various international prisoners' groups together. This organization then, apparently, struggled to alert the outside world about what was happening in the camp. Others claim he collaborated with the Gestapo and sold stolen Jewish possessions. He, along with other Auschwitz prisoners, was eventually transferred to Mauthausen as the Soviet front line approached Auschwitz late in the war. He was eventually liberated by the US Army.

Rise to power

Following the end of the war, he became secretary-general of the Polish Socialist Party's central executive committee in 1946. However, factional infighting split the Party into two camps: one led by Cyrankiewicz, the other by Edward Osóbka-Morawski, who was also prime minister.

Osóbka-Morawski thought the PSP should join with the other non-communist party in Poland, the Polish Peasant Party, to form a united front against communism. Cyrankiewicz argued that the PSP should support the communists (who held most of the posts in the government) in carrying through a socialist programme, while opposing the imposition of one party rule. The communists played on this division within the PSP, dismissing Osóbka-Morawski and making Cyrankiewicz prime minister.

Upon the absorption of the Polish Socialist Party by the Communists in 1948, Cyrankiewicz was named secretary of the central committee of the new Polish United Workers' Party. He gave up the prime minister's post in 1952 because party boss Bolesław Bierut coveted the post for himself.

However, in 1954, after Poland returned to "collective leadership," Cyrankiewicz returned to the premiership, a post he would hold until 1970. By this time, there was little left of Cyrankiewicz the socialist, as evidenced during the 1956 upheaval following Nikita Khrushchev's "secret speech." He tried to repress the rioting that erupted across the country at first, threatening that "any provocateur or lunatic who raises his hand against the people's government may be sure that this hand will be chopped off."

Cyrankiewicz was also responsible for the order to fire on the protesters during the 1970 demonstrations on the coast in which 42 people were killed and more than a 1,000 wounded. A few months after these demonstrations, Cyrankiewicz went into semi-retirement and was named chairman of the Council of State—a post equivalent to that of a ceremonial president. He held this post until he retired altogether in 1972.

Cyrankiewicz died in 1989, a few months before the collapse of the regime.

See also


  1. Andrzej Krajewski (28 kwietnia 2011), Józef Cyrankiewicz, czyli jak kończą idealiści. Newsweek.pl.
  2. Jerzy Reuter (24 sierpnia 2009), Józef Cyrankiewicz. Tarnowski Kurier Kulturalny.
Political offices
Preceded by
Edward Osóbka-Morawski
Prime Minister of Poland
Succeeded by
Bolesław Bierut
Preceded by
Bolesław Bierut
Prime Minister of Poland
Succeeded by
Piotr Jaroszewicz
Preceded by
Marian Spychalski
Chairman of the Polish Council of State
Succeeded by
Henryk Jabłoński

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